In this blog, I interview Steffen Kramer, B2B Industry Manager for Google Germany. Steffen is a keynote speaker for Software AG’s 2017 Innovation Tour on 12 September.
I talked to Steffen about Germany’s digital future and the new digital customer journey. Here, the B2B expert describes the needs of today’s connected customers and reveals how enterprises can learn to understand them.
Mr. Kramer, how is digitalization changing customers and their behavior?
We refer to the “smarter customer” in this context. B2B customers have become accustomed to fast access to extensive information about products and services. They used to have to go to trade fairs or meet with sales reps. Today, B2B decision makers are much better informed by the time they talk to potential suppliers. A successful digital presence will therefore support B2B sales generation. When it comes to B2B products available online, like tools for instance, consumers compare their shopping experience with Amazon, eBay and Zalando. These are the new standards which enterprises must live up to when it comes to website usability.
How do businesses identify the needs of their customers?
First, it is advisable to evaluate website traffic. This will tell you what information customers want. Is it possible to differentiate between existing and new customers? As I mentioned, companies must keep in mind the new B2B customer journey. That can be done with experiments on the website or small-scale pilot projects that allow companies to test different digital touchpoints and the effects they have on each other. This has to be an ongoing process. A company’s digital strategy is never finished. It is continually optimized and adapted to reflect the market and customers. The way customers use media is changing significantly faster than ever before.
How should businesses apply these conclusions to their website and service portfolio?
First and foremost, B2B enterprises must be easy to find online and must offer quick access to relevant product and company information. And not just in Germany, but in every country in which they do business and to which they export. Their online presence must be consistent across all devices: laptops, smartphones and tablets. Furthermore, customers should find the same content and messages whether they are on the Internet or at offline touchpoints. The customer journey must be designed so as to guarantee uniformity to customers throughout; the smart customer expects a consistent company image across all touchpoints. We are often asked what the ideal website should look like. Naturally, the quality of the website is essential. But not in the way most companies would expect. It’s not about winning creativity or design prizes. It’s all about ensuring easy navigation. The desired information should be readily available on a company’s website. And, options for making contact should be simple. When that is in place and generated leads result in business success, the company has already gotten quite a bit right. Unfortunately, too often we still see a disconnect in the success correlation between customer online behavior and the resulting real-world business.
What results can companies expect when they follow this advice?
Let’s use the example of a large weighing system company based in Switzerland. It began enhancing its traditional sales activities with digital channels. Management wondered how much potential their products could have in a country like Mexico. When considering digital sales, they discussed what key words a potential target group in Mexico would use to search for their products. Only after their potential and the right wording had been digitally determined, did the traditional sales force enter the picture. That is a good example of how a digital strategy can enhance existing sales channels and increase the number of incoming orders—efficiently and with relatively little risk.
How should companies approach this sort of digitalization project?
The first prerequisite is to define internal objectives. That is actually a hurdle for many companies. But digital marketing can only be effective if you know exactly what you want – i.e. to attract more traffic to your site or to increase downloads of a specific product brochure. Defining your target group(s) is also key. It is necessary to integrate your website with the overall marketing strategy. Only then can you turn push marketing into pull marketing. So when a B2B customer shows interest in a product, he or she ends up at the relevant landing page. It makes sense to seek the help of agencies when there are no in-house specialists.
Is digitalization your subject? Come hear Steffen speak at the Software AG 2017 Innovation Tour and join the conversation! See the Innovation Tour event website for all details.